Jim Puckett’s Fresh Air Interview 12/21/2010

Jim Puckett’s Fresh Air Interview 12/21/2010

Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basal Action Network was recently interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. In summary….

In the past 10 years, the demand for new electronics has increased significantly, and the old electronics continue to pile up.

So, what do you do with your old electronics and why can’t they be put into the landfill?

Jim Puckett explains, these discarded electronics are toxic waste although they are still not recognized by the United States Government as such. There are three categories of toxins found in almost all electronics: Toxic metals, Bromated Flame Retardants, and rare metals. These toxins are most toxic during electronic production and throughout the recycling process. These are generally very dirty processes, performed in poor countries under dangerous working conditions and creates a significant amount of pollution. Two terrifying examples of the terrors involved with electronic recycling are found in Guiyu, China and Accra, Ghana.

Guiyu is ground zero for electronic waste dumping. In 2001, Jim Puckett went over to investigate and expose what was actually being done there. He describes it as a Cyber-age nightmare. We witnessed many people using archaic technology such as, women “cooking” circuit boards over their stoves to retrieve the metals. To retrieve gold, a process called aqua regia was being used. This process involves putting the gold through two separate acid baths to separate and coagulate the gold. After the acid is used most of it is dumped directly on to the ground. He says their ground water is completely shot and at the time fresh water was brought in on trucks.

The other horrifying example is in Accra, Ghana where the environmental impacts are detrimental although for different reasons. The types of environmental impacts are related to the market and demand of the old electronics. China is the center for electronic manufacturing and there is a higher demand for scrap electronic material. In Ghana old CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors will be put on the market to be sold. What doesn’t get sold is disposed of through open pit firing. This is done mainly by children, many of which are orphans and runaways. After the CRTs have been burned, the left over metal scraps are collected and sold for a minimal price. Most devastating, he said, this burn field is located next to the Agbobloshie market, the main food supply for the area. When these monitors are burned, dioxins and BFR’s are released into the air and directly on to their food. (Check out this link to see photos from the NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/08/04/magazine/20100815-dump.html. )

Jim Puckett asserts, the dirty little secret of all this, is that 80% of all electronics are being shipped outside of the United States. He says recycling is just a name and it is often times hard for the individual to find out what the company really does with their “recycled waste.” Most people are trying to do the right thing by bringing their old electronics to superstores, thinking they will be safely recycled. In actuality they are being sold to brokers and “recycled” under some of the most horrifying conditions. In recent years, many states have enacted their own laws to keep electronics out of landfills. However, the U.S. Federal export Laws over ride the states laws preventing enforcement of electronic waste exportation. So we are cleaning up our own backyard and externalizing the costs. In other words, the people in places like Guiyu and Ghana pay the bill with their health and the destruction of their environment.

Even when done properly, the electronic recycling process is very dirty and creates toxic discharge. Jim Puckett, believes part of the solution is to build electronics without these dangerous toxins to reduce the environmental and health impacts at creation until they are discarded. He has spoken with engineers who say the technology has already been developed but for whatever reason, (economic gain?) it still has yet to be released.

Check out the full interview here    http://www.npr.org/2010/12/21/132204954/after-dump-what-happens-to-electronic-waste

How Are CRT Monitors Recycled?

Cat on CRT monitor
Updated January 2019

Got any old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors you want to get rid of? In recent years, we’ve started to replace cathode ray tubes with LCD displays, leaving consumers with unwanted monitors taking up space. Luckily, recycling is a safe and responsible option for those old monitors. Yes, it can be done!

Cat on CRT monitor

How CRT Recycling Works

The recycling process begins with consumers or companies bringing their CRT monitors to an electronic recycling drop off center, like GreenCitizen. Next, the CRTs are shipped out of the collection center to the recycling plant for further processing. Unfortunately, many electronic collectors ship CRTs overseas where they are often dumped. If you choose an electronic recycler with the e-Steward certification you can be confident that it will be properly recycled in the United States.

When the dismantling process of the CRT monitor begins, the plastic casing of the monitor is removed. This is done manually, exposing the panel glass, glass tube, electronic chip boards, wiring and electron gun. The electron gun contains the cathode and anode units. The cathodes are heated filaments which produce a stream of electrons. The positive charge of the anode draws the electrons from the cathode’s copper components and directs the electrons to create the image. All of these parts contain different materials that are removed and sorted into separate bins to undergo their own recycling process.

Within the glass tube is a vacuum seal. To prevent the unit from imploding, specialized equipment needs to dismantle it. Inside the glass is a phosphorus coating which glows when it is hit by light. This phosphorous is removed so the glass can be recycled. The glass used in the tube generally contains 20% lead by weight. Adding lead to glass is a common practice to improve optical quality and creates a shield against the radiation produced by the electrons. The lead glass needs to undergo a lead smelting process and can be used to make new CRT monitors.

Once the plastics, electronic gun, glass tube, motherboards, wires and other miscellaneous parts have been separated they all undergo the separation process. They are crushed, vibrated, shredded or sprayed by a strong current of water to separate the different materials. Once they have been separated, strong magnets with specific electronic charges for each different metal are used to divide the different metals, such as copper, gold, iron, and steel.

After these parts are separated, they are often sold to different processors where they will be further refined, then sold production of new materials. This process will reduce the impact of mining and keep toxins out of the environment.

If you want to watch how CRT monitor recycling is done, check out this great video. See step by step how the process works.

For more information about what to do with your old monitors, give us a call at (650) 493-8700. Or if you have a CRT monitor you’re eager to get rid of, stop by our EcoCenter today and we’ll take it off your hands for free.

What are SB20 Units and Why Are They Free?

What are SB20 Units and Why Are They Free?

Many household devices contain hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium, lithium and barium. These elements can cause a wide range of health problems including, but not limited to: brain damage, birth defects, liver, kidney and skeletal damage. In the event that a landfill cap is damaged, these chemicals can easily leak into ground water contaminating soil and water supplies. In order to reduce this risk, the State of California enacted Senate Bill 20 or SB20 in 2003.   This provided funding for proper disposal of specified electronic items.

The law covers the following items:

1. Cathode ray tube containing devices (CRT devices)
2. Cathode ray tubes (CRTs)
3. Computer monitors containing cathode ray tubes
4. Laptop computers with liquid crystal display (LCD)
5. LCD containing desktop monitors
6. Televisions containing cathode ray tubes
7. Televisions containing liquid crystal display (LCD) screens
8. Plasma televisions
9. Portable DVD players with LCD screens

On January 1, 2005 California residents began paying $6.00-$10.00 when they purchased an SB20 item. The money is deposited into the Electronic Waste Recovery Account, managed by the Board of Equalization. This money is used to help qualified recyclers cover the recycling costs for the SB20 items. In 2008 these costs increased again.  Listed below are the current fees paid when purchasing new SB20 items.

–  $8.00 for screens larger than 4 inches and less than 15

–  $16.00 for screens 15 inches to 35 inches

–  $25.00 for screens 35 inches or larger

When purchasing a new SB20 item, the recycling fee is not subject to tax.

When you recycle your SB20 items at Greencitizen it will be free!  This is because you or someone else has already paid the recycling fee upon purchasing an new SB20 item.

Form filled out by customers when recycling an SB20 unit at GreenCitizen
Form filled out by customers when recycling an SB20 unit at GreenCitizen

How is the SB20 law regulated?

The SB20 Law of 2008 manages the disposal of electronic waste for California residents; however it does not regulate exportation of electronic waste. Presently there are no statutes and regulations operating at the federal level

in the United States regarding the export of electronic waste. However, the SB20 law implies federal government will regulate export of electronic waste. The SB20 law regulates by requiring manufactures to label items containing hazardous materials and pro

vide consumers with information for proper disposal information. Manufactures supply the management board with records for the items produced containing hazardous materials. Retailers must collect a fee for covered electronic items. In order for a collector or a recycling center to receive this payment, they must undergo an application process and be approved by the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

The California SB 20 law is unique because it was the first State law to address electronic waste collecting and recycling; however it does not fix the problem entirely. Greencitizen’s goal is to fix the problem by ensuring that waste is not shipped overseas where it can be de-manufactured without proper human rights and environmental standards.

Five Ways to Green You PC

Five Ways to Green You PC

Five Ways to Green Your Computer

  1. Set your computer to hibernate
    When your computer is not in use set it to hibernate mode, this saves more energy then stand by, screen savers or shutting down your computer completely. Setting your computer to hibernate when not in use actually shuts down the entire computer and stores the information on your hard drive. Computer consultants will agree this is also a safer option because your work will be saved. When you activate your computer again it requires less energy to start up then when your computer is completely shut down, but has a similar effect on your computer. Standby mode shuts down peripherals such as the monitor and hard drive, but it is still using a small amount of energy, this would be the best option if you only plan on stepping away from your computer for a few minutes.

    Every modern operating system has its own settings for conserving power. Take your computer to a computer consultant or take advantage of online PC repair services to determine the optimal energy use for your computer.

  2. Unplug computer peripherals when not in use.
    Even when electronics are turned off, a continuous current of energy often referred to as vampire energy or phantom energy is continually streaming into your electronics. Printers for example, even when they are turned off it are estimated to use 113 kilowatts hours per year of wasted energy. Simply unplugging your electronics when not in use will stop the energy flow and save energy. Using a power strip with an on and off switch will help reduce the flow of energy and protect your electronics. Save energy by switching the power strip off when not in use.
  3. Don’t replace your “old,” 2007 computer repair, optimize or replace.
    Is your computer slow, not functioning properly? Bring your computer to a computer consultant or find an online PC repair service and have them run a virus or spyware removal program, upgrade your memory, install a new operating system or replace broken hardware. Generally any computer with Pentium 4 processor and can run Windows XP should be fully functional and upgraded.  This reduces waste and is cheaper then buying a whole new system. Take advantage of virus and spyware removal services, it can significantly improve your computers function and speed.
  4. Use an online PC repair service.
    The majority of all error messages, slow computers and viruses are software related problems. Technology has come a long way in the past year and there are some excellent online PC repair services. Do you have a virus you can’t get rid of on your own? Log on to your trusted online PC repair company and have the computer consultants run their virus and spyware removal software remotely.  This will cut costs and reduce CO2 production that you would have produced driving your computer to a repair center. Online PC repair service is also an easy way to save time, money and stress.
  5. Find a socially responsible e-waste recycler.
    Electronic waste is increasing exponentially and unfortunately the common practice in the United States is to throw these electronics away or ship overseas. Do your part to find a responsible Electronic waste recycler.